Insider Tips - Costa del Sol

  • © DuMont Photo Archive / Arthur F. Selbach

Our top insider tips for the Costa del Sol:

 

Heavenly views 

In the Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve, take a walk into the Vela Blanca Hills, from where there are magnificent views of bays and cliffs, right down to the cape itself. Whether you're here by car or on foot, you get there as follows: some 300m/yds before the car park at the cape, take the inconspicuous little road to the left past the Aula del Mar information centre, dwarf palms and the car park above the bay of Cala Rajá. Beyond, the road winds its way into the hills for 1.6km (1 mile), where the historic watchtower of Vela Blanca and a modern radio transmitter act as beacons. The road ends at the transmitter – with wonderful views of the cape. At your feet, below the nearby watchtower, is the east coast of the reserve, studded with bays, leading towards San José. The track going down to beaches and bays such as Cala de la Media Luna is closed to motor traffic but not to mountain-bikers or hikers. 

 

New year in August

Who has ever heard of celebrating the New Year in summer? Well, in the mountain village of Bérchules they do – every year. For a brief period the place is swamped with visitors. On the first Sunday in August, thousands of people head for the ‘New Year Festival’ / ‘Fiesta de Nochevieja’ in the Alpujarra village of Bérchules. The reason for the unusual date: a power cut in the middle of New Year celebrations in the mid-1990s. Ever since then, to be on the safe side, New Year has been celebrated in the summer, and always with great enthusiasm.

 

Food & Drink 

A litter-strewn floor is the sign of a good tapas bar – it shows lots of locals have been there, an emphatic seal of quality.

Andalusians love their food. Large chunks of their budget and their time are spent savouring culinary delights. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of beautifully prepared food, go to a tapas bar and sample a wide range of little treats. Although tapas are now widely eaten just about everywhere outside Spain, they hardly ever taste as good as they do here, in their place of origin. It is impossible to define what makes a good tapa – there is an almost endless variety, ranging from deep-fried calamari to artichokes with anchovies or slices of air-dried ham on bread – it depends on your personal taste.

The bars of Granada enjoy a special status – as a general rule you’ll automatically get tapas served with your wine or beer – tasty little morsels at no additional cost (though in reality they are covered by the cost of the drinks).

No local person would ever think of spending the whole time in one bar. In the evening in particular, the convention is to hop from one bar to another in search of the most original and delicious tapas. If you are in a group, the best way to pay is with a kitty or to take it in turns. The clearest sign of a good bar is a messy floor, covered in used napkins, toothpicks and olive stones, left there by appreciative locals.

 

Signature fruit

Why not try a chirimoya? Otherwise known as the custard apple, with its creamy, seed-packed flesh, it is the signature fruit of the Costa Tropical area. 

 

Authentic Flamenco

See emerging talents perform authentic flamenco at the Sala Vimaambi, part of an artists’ workshop in Granada. On Friday and Saturday evenings, at 9 and 10.30pm, their studio theatre stages the ‘Raíz y Duende’ flamenco show, with performances straight from the Albaicín, free of the ‘folklore’ that ruins some of the more tourist-oriented shows. For many of the young dance and music talents who perform here, it is a springboard into the professional limelight. Cuesta de San Gregorio 30 | Tel. 9 58 22 73 34 | www.vimaambi.com ( Website in Spanish.)

 

Top secret

From the Casa del Rey Moro in Ronda a hidden passage leads down through the cliffs to the Río Guadalevín. Water was once brought up to the town this way – guaranteeing supplies in the event of a siege.

Ronda, situated around 60km (31 miles) northwest of Marbella, is one of the highlights of a trip to Andalusia. The town (population 37,000) is perilously perched on a clifftop. Even the journey there along the A397 through the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda is an experience. The more than 100m- (330ft-) deep Tajo Gorge divides the town. ‘La Mina’ is a secret passage with 200 steep and occasionally damp steps that lead down to the bottom of the gorge, beginning at the Casa del Rey Moro (daily 10am–7pm | Cuesta de Santo Domingo). For more info: www.andalucia.com/ronda/casadelrey.htm

 

Unique souvenirs

In the mountain villages of the Alpujarra they sell colourful rag rugs, known locally as Jarapas. Once such rugs were essential household items, today they are sold mainly as souvenirs. This traditional craft of weaving strips of cloth into colourful rugs has been turned into a thriving cottage industry. Attractive and reasonably priced souvenirs, small rag rugs cost from 6 euros, larger ones around 25 euros. Despite the ‘machine washable’ claim, as a precaution you should only wash your rug by hand.

 

Mountain biking

Andalusia is well covered by cycling tour companies. Enjoy mountain biking holidays and road cycling trips as well as leisure cycling holidays and tough triathlon and winter training camps.

Andalucian Cycling Experience operates from Montecorto in the Sierra de Grazalema west of Ronda and offers mountain biking holidays and road cycling trips as well as leisure cycling holidays and tough triathlon and winter training camps.  Tel. 952 184 042 | www.andaluciancyclingexperience.com

Biking Andalucia, a British company based in Órgiva, specialises in mountain biking in the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra; it offers a 7-day guided bike ride. Tel: 6 76 00 25 46 | www.bikingandalucia.com 

 

 

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